Exactly what sort of proof must parents provide in order to rebut the presumption of liability placed upon them in connection with the losses caused by their underage children to third parties?
The Italian Supreme Court has recently dealt with this matter in judgment 26200/11 handed down in connection with an incident which occurred during a football match. More specifically, the minor L.N. head-butted T.M. in the mouth – without having previously been attacked – after play had been stopped.
In the case at hand, therefore, L.N.’s conduct could not be justified in any manner whatsoever since he deliberately injured an opponent who did not appear to have provoked his aggressor.
The injuring of T.M. would have, of course, been assessed differently in the event that it had taken place whilst the match was being played (the classical “foul”).
The case at hand is of particular interest since it examines the question of parental liability pursuant to article 2048 of the Italian Civil Code (“c.c.”)., which, as is well known, places upon parents a presumption of liability that the latter can only rebut by proving that they “were unable “prevent the contested conduct”.
What exactly constitutes, therefore, rebuttal evidence?
The Italian Supreme Court, overturning the ruling of second instance, held that parents do not need to prove – as would instead to be the case if one were to interpret literally article 2048 c.c. – that they have been unable to prevent the contested conduct from happening (which would be tantamount to a proof of impossibility), but must show that they have educated their children properly, teaching them to observe the rules of civil co-existence (Italian Supreme Court rulings. nos. 7050/08; 20322/05 and 7459/97) and monitoring their children’s conduct.
The Supreme Court judges also added that the inadequacy of the education given by parents to their children can also transpire from the manner in which the tort committed by the minor in question took place (revealing the latter’s level of maturity and education).
In the case at hand, such rebuttal evidence had not been provided by the parents and the manner in which their child acted – head-butting an opponent when play had been stopped – did not bear favorable witness to the latter.